April 9, 2004
Expanding the sound palate of stringed instruments through electronics has become quite commonplace in the last little while. But the key to triumph with these electro-acoustic improvisations is for the instrumentalist (s) to bend the machines output to his or her own ends.
On these two discs, Greek cellist Nikos Veliotis shows that he understands these challenges and has resolved them in his own fashion. The result is a definition of 21st century cello music. Be aware though, that even when recorded in real time, sessions like this alter the cellos output far beyond that of the conventional apparatus that has maintained its distinct identity whether played by Pablo Casals or Ron Carter.
Athens-based Veliotis, who specializes in New musics indeterminate and graphic scores as well as improvisations with the likes of British cellist Mark Wasttell and pianist Chris Burn is solo on RADIAL and is partnered with the Milan-born, Athens-resident, electronica artist Coti K. on TEXTU RIZER. But the difference is often merely one of degree.
One important difference is that despite similarities, the duo instrumental session is highly mechanized, while RADIAL features more acoustic glimmerings.
Over the course of TEXTU RIZERs four tracks, labeled like the electronics manipulator only by initials, the undulating sine waves become so dense that they occupy all the available sonic space. Beginning with textures that resemble metal scrapings and twisting gears, the reverberations gradually drop in pitch. Soon droning buzzes are vying with abbreviated dripping water sounds to produce an undercurrent thats more felt than heard.
As the vibrations reconstitute themselves into more complex loops, the expanded textures can be identified as the resonation produced by the bow pressuring cello strings. On top of the electronic-created pulsating waveforms that serve as continuum beneath, multiphonic tremolos appear that are the cello played ponticello — as close as the bridge as possible — to create a mechanized, nasal sound.
By the last track though, it becomes evident that those string swipes are being applied without lifting the bow. Instead the rending movement distorts and distends the sound as it meets droning pitches from lap top electronics that progressively augment in volume and mass. Finally, the output gets even louder, as the cellos silvery stopped vibrato move portamento across this dense, pulsating mass, eventually announcing itself as taut resonating strings are amplified through a sympathetic wood body.
Recorded without overdubs or edits, on the other hand, RADIAL not only showcases an admixture of acoustic and electronic timbres, but is as much concerned with silences as sound. Four of the seven tracks are completely noiseless, and the listener is encouraged to program the CD in random order.
In proper sequence, the initial silence perceptibly gives way to the pulsation of a steadily expanding arco cello tone, whose droning pressure seems to form a solid mass.
Quivering reverberations push these timbres forward ponticello until they dissolve into three minutes of silence.
Eventually reappearing at a slightly higher pitch, the growling undertones and higher-pitched overtones suggesting a string trio interface. Throughout, this configuration includes shaking vibrato and pressure point buzzes that reflect items pressed against one another. Reverberating loops imply how the bow is being lifted slightly, then pressed down again for further power-driven color, with the mirrored wide arpeggios on the bottom providing extra resonance. By that point, the recurrent motif of closely vibrated harmonies has become a familiar sub-theme that holds the diffuse oscillations together until they too dwindle into almost five minutes of silence. Finally audible again, the expansive quadruple stopping of swelling tones augment the cello sound until organ-like textures appear from within the solid mass.
To be honest, after listening to Veliotis skills on this solo session, one begins to wonder about K.s electronics contributions on the other set.
Mesmerizing at points, soothing at others, and occasionally dissipating into near-
cybernetic waveforms, both CDs are triumphs of audacity. With this energy transfer between electronic and acoustic sources, Veliotis has definitely created a distinctive personality for himself as a modern cellist. What more he does with this breakthrough will be something to follow in the future.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: textu: 1. .a 2. .b 3. .c 4. .d
Personnel: textu: Nikos Veliotis (cello, electronics); Coti K. (electronics)
Track Listing: Radial: 1. [-00:47] 2. 12:25 3. [-03:00] 4. 19:52 5. [-04:48] 6. 15:12 7. [-00:54]
Personnel: Radial: Nikos Veliotis (cello and electronics)